Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breakdowns, Border Crossing, and the Real Beginning - Thursday, November 18, 2010: San Diego – Ensenada, Baja California, MX. 100 miles, 4 hours.

SO, I did end up picking up some oil and a loud horn to replace the stock POS on the bike and headed back to Reid’s to do some maintenance. Drop the oil pan, take out the drain bolts (damn that oil look black and syrupy!) and unscrew the cap on the oil filter housing. Pop in the new filter and screw the cap back on. One of the bolts is spinning freely. Hmmmm. Switch them around and now the other one is doing the same. Reid comes out and gives it a try. Pull the bolts out and there is aluminum threaded onto them. SHIT. The bolts are stripped and I quickly realize what this means. The holes will need to be rethreaded (helicoiled) so the cap can be held into place, without which a running engine would dump all of the oil in a couple of minutes. Somewhat stunned I sit down and think things through. There are a lot of local machine shops in the area and I will have to push my bike to one that will rethread the holes. It should only take about a half hour and cost maybe 30 or 40 bucks if I’m lucky. If I get up early enough and get things taken care of, I can probably stick with my original plan of leaving in the morning. Until then, the bike, tools and oil are all over the fucking place, and I clean up and try to get some sleep to prepare for the long day ahead. Oh yeah, to add insult to injury, I plug in the new horn to try to accomplish something that night, and it won’t fucking honk.

And a long – ass day it was! Although not nearly in the way I had expected. I woke up early, around 8. Walked to an auto shop. They can’t do it. Walk to another shop. Guy hesitantly says to bring the bike over. Go back to the house and walk it over. In between I stop at a German auto shop to inquire but it’s not open yet. Mechanic at the hesitant-guy shop immediately looks at it and says “we don’t do that.” Ok. Walk the bike over to the German spot which is opening in 10 minutes. Sit and wait. He is cool , says he can’t do it but recommends a small engine repair shop about a 10 minute walk/push away. I roll up and see a shop filled with lawn mowers, weed whackers, generators and a sweet vintage Yamaha Daytona 400 in the corner. I know immediately I will get some help here. The owner Brian comes out and says he can hook me up for 32 bucks ( half of the minimum $70 an hour shop rate) since I am on the road. This is very good news for me. However, he looks at the bike and says the whole side cover needs to come off to do the job right. Cool, whatever. It comes off and I walk down the street to pick up an oil filter at the dealership. They rape me for 12 bucks, but that’s what dealerships do and I need the damn thing now. Brian calls the dealership while I’m there and tells me to pick up a new gasket as well, which they don’t have. I walk back and Brian explains that the old gasket on the sidecase fell apart when he took it off. The holes have been rethreaded however, and after some calling around I locate the only one in the area in El Cajon, about 20 minutes away. Brian needs to go do some errands anyway, so we make a couple of stops (where he uses his clout to hook me up with some seriously discounted filters) and I pick up the gasket and some odds and ends. In the meantime, Brian tells me about his love of vintage bikes, which he races regularly, his business, family, and his new venture which he has been getting off the ground, rebuilding high performance shocks for vintage bikes, which apparently nobody does. We head back and I walk off to a Mexican spot and eat some heavy ass, delicious bistec, eggs, beans and rice. When I get back Brian has some bad news. The gasket number he gave me was for the case on the OTHER side of the bike, and the nearest correct gasket is in San Francisco! So, we do it ghetto style and put some liquid gasket on the case. Put it back together. Let it cure for 2 hours. In the meantime, I walk like 4 miles in the San Diego hot-ass afternoon weather returning and picking up a new horn, grabbing some things from the house, returning that overpriced- ass oil filter, etc. Get back and pour the new oil in the engine. Oh yeah, I’m not making it to Mexico today to see the start of the Baja 1000, bummer. David, a guy at the shop suggests I pur in 2 quarts, start it, then pour in the other one. I ignore him and keep pouring. Oil overflows. Now I listen to him, crank the bike, and pour the rest in. Take it for a spin. Something is very wrong. The bike won’t shift. The shifter and clutch are completely binding up. I make it back to the shop. Brian figures out that because of the slight difference in the thickness of the gasket and the liquid that we put on, the shifter rod is rubbing up against the clutch and locking it up. Wow, we are talking about a few 10,000ths of an inch difference here. Damn, accurate-ass Japanese tolerances! It is now 5:00PM. I arrived at 9:00AM. With the bike on its side so we don’t lose all the brand new expensive synthetic oil I just poured in, we remove the case and clean off the gasket. Brian, with years of experience under his belt uses precision tools and an expert hand to file down the protrusion to the correct length. Put on the liquid gasket. Put it back together. Wait an hour and a half. 2 would be better but its now 7PM. Ride it around and come back. Oil seems to be seeping. SHIT, maybe we should have waited longer for the gasket to cure? Brian thinks its OK and I take it out again. Ahh, the seal is fine, the leak is coming from the oil filter housing, which it turns out just needs a new O-ring. 12 hours later and the bike is as it should be. For his trouble, Brian takes $50. Amazing. What could have been a real nightmare turned out to be an awesome learning experience. I met some amazing people in the process and was shown that some people in the States don’t only care about the almighty dollar and would go above and beyond to help a complete stranger so he can go ride his motorcycle all over the place while they bust their ass making a living and supporting their families. Brian, David, Mike, I am truly humbled by you guys and can’t thank you enough for what you did for me.

Got back to Reid’s and the light is on in the garage. Walk in and meet Mike, A friend of Reid’s who is crashing in there for the night. Reid lives in Tijuana in a gated apartment building and is on his way to Denver. We end up discussing the finer points of metal, especially the now decades– old Metallica vs. Megadeth argument (yes, its possible to be fans of both. Metallica sure turned into a bunch of asshole pussies though, right?). Wake up and get my shit together and head out. I’ll have to call Reid later to thank him, he leaves for work at 4:30 in the morning. Go to a cycle shop and pick up a spare inner tube. Stop by Brian’s shop where I planned to say goodbye and buy everyone lunch. Lunch is being brought to them already, so heartfelt goodbyes all around. I promise to keep in touch. Over to El Cajon to return the gasket and an overpriced oil filter I don’t need and then I’m finally heading to Mexico to cross the border at Tecate. Head down CA Hwy 94 through some awesome mountain scenery and get ready for the first border crossing of the trip. It consists of riding up to a gate with no traffic and waiting for a light to turn green. And then I'm in Mexico. I cant believe how quick and easy it is, not even a cursory glance at my passport. Im not complaining. I had planned to take the Tecate Beer Factory Tour and after driving around for a little while through the chaos of the Mexican border town, I find the great sprawling mass of a factory. I then realize I don’t really give a shit about seeing how this beer is made and I'm itching to get to Ensenada. I hit dirt almost immediately, there is major construction everywhere and it is a bit of a free-for-all. The bike handles the rough roads like a champ, and I remember now why I bought this bike especially for this trip, the Works shock and Progressive springs soaking up the bumps like they are nothing, and the knobby tires gripping like a mofo. The treeless mountain scenery is fantastic, the weather is warm and perfect and then the Ruta del Vino with its vinyards and wineries lining the sides of the road add to the vibe. 2 hours later Im in Ensenada, where I roll into the hostel, unload, and while pulling the bike around back meet Steve and Mike. Steve works on big ass cruise ships doing maintenance and Mike, from Toronto has come down just to see the start of the Baja 1000, which he plans on doing himself on hos KLR in a year or 2. I find out that the start of the race didn’t happen yesterday while I was stuck in San Diego, but that I had just missed it by 2 hours, Fuck, that sucks! The three of us head out and get some serious tacos, Mexican style. The fish taco was supposedly invented here, and the ones we got are caught fresh daily. They tasted as good as you would imagine. We check out the rest of the center of town which is now calm, as opposed to the madness surrounding the town before the race. Get back to the hostel where I'm catching up on this and trying to decide whether to head out of here tomorrow. Hopefully Ill wake up early enough to head to Mike’s Sky Rancho, a dirt bike oasis in the desert. Ensenada really doesn’t have that much here to offer, even the beach is just a deep- sea port so Im really gonna try to push on.

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